It’s a beautiful drive up the coast road to the small town of Largs, nestled on the shores of the Firth of Clyde. On a clear day there are views of the island of Arran with the ferry sailing across to it, then further up the coast, the islands of Cumbrae come into view with the island of Bute rising behind. The wee town of Millport is on Cumbrae and was where I often went for my summer holidays as a child. It’s only a short hop on the ferry across to it nowadays and the local school kids travel on it every day to school in Largs.
But I didn’t have time to stand and stare, more’s the pity, as I was off to give a talk on writing for children to the local writers group who meet every Monday morning in the library. They are a very keen and enthusiastic group and there were around 20 members present, not bad for 10am on an October morning.
In preparation for my talks, I always like to visit my local bookshop, Waterstones, where resident children’s expert, Kirsty, fills me in over coffee on what is new and selling well, on what deserves to win a prize for children’s writing, and books which simply appeal to her. And to me too. I always end up buying loads and no, I haven’t any grandchildren to pass them on too, I just love children’s books.
The picture book which we both liked was Oi Dog! It illustrates perfectly the 3R’s of writing for young children, Rhyme, Rhythm and Repetition. And it’s funny. Humour goes down well with kids. And I think the Largs group liked it too.
I also spoke about how children’s books subtly change as they go up the age ranges. For young children. the illustrations are dominant, full colour, spreading right across the page and often carrying part of the story as well. As kids become better readers, the illustrations shrink, become black and white and may well disappear altogether. Meantime, the text expands with more complex vocabulary, longer compound sentences and interesting verbs, adjectives and adverbs.
I had to set a competition for the members so I’ve asked them to write me 1000 words max of a children’s story, saying what age range they’re aiming at. I’m looking forward to reading their entries and seeing if my talk hit the mark!
I heard Sally Polson of Floris Books speak at Scotswrite17 (see my previous blog) and she had said she was looking for Picture Kelpies (which is their children’s series) with a Scottish slant suitable for 3-6 years. The Largs group brainstormed Scottish ideas they could possibly use in writing for children and they came up with quite a few interesting ones. Hopefully, they’ll try their hand at writing for this publisher and be successful.
After I’d finished my talk and sold several copies of my own children’s book, A Drop of Rainbow Magic, (commercial break!) we adjourned for lunch and a chat at a local hostelry. Eventually I dragged myself away and set off homewards after a very enjoyable time at Largs. I’ll meet up with some of them again in March at the Scottish Association of Writers conference in Cumbernauld.